Two power outages leave town powerless for weekend

Trent Ernst, Editor

We knew the power was going to go out, we just didn’t know it would go out so soon.

Pattern Energy had been planning the power outage on Sunday, August 28 for months. The power outage was to complete the company’s hookup of its Meikle Wind Project to the grid.

So when the power went out on Saturday just before noon, it came as a bit of a shock.

According to Bob Gammer from BC Hydro, the power was out for nearly 11 hours. The cause of the outage was a tree contacting a power pole nearer to the Tumbler Ridge Substation on the road out toward Chetwynd. “Both of the circuits that supply power to residential and commercial customers in the community are on this same pole and the incident resulted in all customers losing power. Double circuit poles are common in the BC Hydro system and throughout the electric utility industry. This tree contact also caused a pole top fire and wire was down on the ground. We had a full crew responding to the outage which took many hours to repair and also clean up some minor issues elsewhere in the community.”

The Fire Department responded to the fire, but by the time they got there, the rain had mostly extinguished it.

Sunday’s outage in Tumbler Ridge was a planned six-hour event that was completed in 4.5 hours, says Gammer. “Power was off from the Sukunka Substation affecting all of Tumbler Ridge, including all of the large industrial sites as well, to prepare for the connection of the Meikle Wind Energy Project later this fall. While power was out on Sunday, our crews took the opportunity to make some equipment changes on the local distribution system without having to schedule another outage.”

However, the crews were unable to get to everything they needed to. “Following the planned power outage on Sunday, August 28 near Tumbler Ridge, we discovered several transmission line connections that need to be revised at the Meikle Terminal Station,” says Gammer. “We will require another planned outage to complete these revisions. The work is necessary to allow for the interconnection of the new wind project, and for safety reasons must be done under a power outage. This will require another planned outage that will affect all residential and commercial customers in Tumbler Ridge.”

So the third, and hopefully last outage date and time is Sunday, September 11 from 1:30 am to 4:30 am (three hours). “We are scheduling this next outage in the middle of the night to minimize impacts to customers as much as possible,” says Gammer. “We apologize for the short notice in scheduling this additional planned outage especially considering the unplanned outage the community experienced last weekend due to the storm. Unfortunately we cannot push the outage date any later than September 11 because of our need to support the completion of this project according to the project schedule. We ask for everyone’s continued patience as we complete necessary steps for the upcoming connection of the new Meikle Wind Energy Project to BC Hydro’s system.”

Over the last few months, Pattern and their contractors have been hard at work. At the time of the power outage, says Project Manager Michael Thompson Thompson, approximately half of the turbines had been installed. “The remainder are planned to be installed by late October or early November,” he says. “We are busy installing and wiring the turbines and GE are starting their turbine commissioning works so they are ready to bring into the grid.”

After the floods in June, the project looked like it might get pushed right off the rails, with both the Pine Pass and Highway 29 getting washed out, but, says Thompson, they are only a few weeks behind their original schedule, “But we are catching up and hoping to recover most of the delay and end up with the Project still reaching commercial operations by year end.”

As with the previous power outage, Pattern once again sponsored a breakfast down at the Tumbler Ridge Golf and Country Club. Close to 700 people showed up between 8:00am and 11:00am.